Friday, July 20, 2007

Surf and Turf in southern Iraq. Who-da-thunk-it?

I'm certain that many of my colleagues in the military have suffered in terms of cuisine during their tours here, but that is not the experience I have had, nor any of my cohort that is working up at Phoenix Base in the International Zone in Baghdad.

Now those guys up there eat pretty good- they have more variety of all kinds, and I imagine I'd be pretty huge by now up there were I there during the past 2-3 months. But we do OK down here, too. By the way, my fascination with food today is related to being put on The Hammer's fitness plan. My buddy likes to remind me that diet is key as well.

We can always count on chicken at every meal in some form or other, and there are some other typical standbys, but on the whole, we have a great dining experience. Today we were treated to lobster mornay (spelling?)- huge pieces of lobster in this white sauce- for lunch. I'd told the catering manager how much I had enjoyed that dish, and I've been seeing it more often- joy! And tonight, two hefty steaks, and they were quite good. We eat lots of steak here, but sometimes its not so tender, but tonight, ahhhhh.

And to meet the incredible sensibilities of the Iraqi students here for fresh samoon bread, BLP actually built a bakery at the back of the Academy. I could eat that stuff all day, but again, I need to be able to fit in my military uniforms- I won't be able to buy any of a larger size at the local PX down here. The PX here is a blog story all by itself, for another time. We've also profited from some incredible pizza from that bakery- not the greasy garbage like you'd get at Pizza Hut or Dominos. I love Uday and Collin because they take care of my stomach.

Now the plate presentation isn't often to the standard in the stock photo stolen off the internet that I've posted here, but it can get pretty fancy, especially for our VIP visits. And our higher up leadership actually seems to like to visit here, I suspect to some degree they look forward to the meals, because they often integrate lunch into their visits, even though they are a quick flight from the IZ down here. In fact, one of the few times I've been scolded for things down here (most of the time we are left to our own devices, I assume, because we do a good job), was because someone didn't like how the food was laid out during a VIP visit. The irony was apparently lost on them- this isn't a fine dining establishment, it is a training facility for Iraqi National Police, and our efforts to keep VIPs happy in the gustatory arena we hope are secondary to the quality of the training we are providing down here.

And I guess this is where it would be inappropriate to mention, "Gee- I haven't had any salmon in a while...."

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